Abbas Hopes Trump Will Support Palestinian Quest for Independence

During three-hour speech to Fatah party, Palestinian president rejects idea of interim agreement with Israel while adding that he continues to be in touch with the French on an international peace summit.

Mahmoud Abbas at the Seventh Fatah Congress, November 30, 2016.
Mahmoud Abbas at the Seventh Fatah Congress, November 30, 2016. Abbas Momani, AFP

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Wednesday expressed hope that U.S. President-elect Donald Trump will support the Palestinian quest for independence, saying little is known about the incoming American leader's policies.

In a sprawling speech that lasted well over three hours to the Fatah Central Committee, Abbas said he hopes that 2017 will be the year that the Palestinians finally gain independence and that he would seek Trump's help in achieving that goal.

"We know nothing about him," Abbas said. "His people elected him. We didn't, and if he wants to talk with us, we are pursuing that."

"We hope that he will be able to offer something to the Palestinian cause, to offer a solution, a sane, balanced and fair (solution)," Abbas said, adding that "we expect to develop good relations with [Trump] and continue to be in touch with the French about convening an international peace summit."

In other comments that could irk Israel, Abbas praised a series of "martyrs" killed in fighting with Israel over the years, including Sheik Ahmed Yassin, the spiritual leader of the Islamic military Hamas group.

Abbas also addressed potential future Palestinian UN resolutions, saying that "we as a non-member observer state have more influence than dozens of member states. We will turn to the UN Security Council again and again until we will be accepted as members."

He also rejected the idea of an interim agreement, giving Palestinians independence while final border arrangements are made. "We are here, we will stay here and will not run away. What happened in 1948 and in 1967 will not be repeated."

At one point, Abbas threatened to withdraw his recognition of Israel, but he gave no details on how he would do so. Abbas, who leads an autonomy government in the West Bank, frequently threatens to cut ties, but he has never taken firm action.

In his speech, Abbas paid homage to the late Cuban leader Fidel Castro, who was famous for hours-long speeches, as well as the late Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez and the Saudi King Abdullah, who died last year. He promised to dedicate roads and public squares to the three men.